And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
(Matthew 24:4-8 ESV)
Yesterday the disciples asked Jesus “when” the temple would be destroyed and what sign they could look for that would signal the start of the earthly kingdom they still believed He would bring. Notice Jesus responds to them, but doesn’t answer their question. This is typical of Jesus. Rather than answer the question we ask He gives us the information we need. Instead of telling the disciples when these things would occur, He tells them how to behave when they do.
In the Olivet Discourse Jesus is not giving us a bunch of fun-facts about the end times, although all this information is incredibly interesting. God isn’t into trivia. He always speaks information we can use. To that end, Jesus tells us about the end times so that we will not be caught off guard when these things happen.
It should not be missed that Jesus is speaking only to His disciples here. That is, He is only speaking to His followers (people we currently call Christians). When all these things happen God doesn’t want His children acting like the world will – in full panic mode.
In the future (relative to when Jesus spoke these words) many will come in His name saying ‘I am the Christ’, we will hear of wars and rumors of wars, nation will rise against nation, there will be famines and earthquakes. These are some pretty bad things. In truth, the world has always had these things. But the implication here is that these things will continue to increase in severity and frequency like birth pains. The world will never become a more peaceful, safer place.
But more important than the events themselves, notice how Jesus calls on Christians to react. We are not to be lead astray, we are not to be alarmed. In other words, we should stay focused on Jesus and remain calm.
God is most interested in our character. His goal for us is to trust Him and follow Him. He gets us to do this in several ways but one way is through prophecy. More than just predicting the future, prophecy proves the Bible is from God – for no one else could predict the future with such precision. This in turn should increase our trust in Him when the predicted events actually happen.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Daniel 7 in which Daniel writes of a vision he had of the end times. Then suddenly in verse 9 the scene switches to heaven and we see God calmly reigning while the earth is in chaos. God is never shaken by the events on earth and neither should His children be.
The Olivet Discourse is all about the end times – when the world rapidly disintegrates in morality and peace on earth evaporates. Christians are not to be surprised at this. We should remember that God is still in heaven and is still in control of what is going on.
Light shines brighter as the darkness around it gets darker:
By keeping our lives focused on Jesus and remaining calm as the world falls apart we will shine brighter and point people towards God.
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